The 25 people – all men – were part of a group of 46 people, who were returning to their homes from the town of Pissila, hoping for improved security there. A twenty-sixth person, also a man, was seriously injured and left for dead by the attackers.
They were separated from the group and executed, UNHCR said in a statement on Wednesday. The women and children were later released, and the armed group fled the scene.
“We are heartbroken by news of this brutal and callous act,” said Ioli Kimyaci, UNHCR’s Representative in Burkina Faso.
“Innocent civilians are seeking safety but instead are paying with their lives with alarming frequency.”
The attack took place near the village of Ouintokoulga, in Burkina Faso’s Sanmatenga province in the Centre-Nord (Centre-North) region.
The surviving family members managed to reach Pissila, about nine kilometres (5.6 miles) away. UNHCR-partner ICAHD has been providing them with psychological support.
Surge in violence
Burkina Faso has seen a recent surge in violence, that has claimed hundreds of lives and displaced thousands this year.
According to UNHCR, the landlocked west African nation is now the world’s fastest-growing displacement and protection crisis, with over 1 million people – more than 5 per cent of the population – displaced within the country, many of them multiple times.
Conflict has also aggravated food insecurity in Burkina Faso, affecting more than 3 million people, including over 535,000 children under the age of five, who are suffering from acute malnutrition.
The situation has been further complicated by floods that have washed away crops and destroyed houses, leaving many dependent on humanitarian assistance.